Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Monday, June 29, 2009
This gorgeously shot black and white documentary takes you into the subterranean depths of the library, where (at least in 1956) there were sixty miles of shelves, and up to the beautiful vaulted ceilings of the reading rooms. It follows a book from its arrival in the post, to its (pre-computer) cataloguing and its assigned place on the shelves. What really makes this documentary quite beautiful (and oh, so French) is the accompanying voice-over narration. Here's what happens when a library patron requests a book (the camera follows the entire process):
And now the book marches on toward an imaginary boundary, more significant in its life than passing through the looking glass. It is no longer the same book. Before, it was part of a universal abstract, indifferent memory where all books were equal and together basked in attention as tenderly distant as that shown by God to men. Here it's been picked out, preferred over others. Here it's indispensible to its reader, torn from its galaxy to feed these paper-crunching pseudo-insects, irreparably different from true insects in that each is bound in its own distinct concern. . . Here we glimpse a future in which all mysteries are solved. . . when this and other universes offer up their keys to us. And this will come about simply because these readers, each working on his slice of universal memory, will have laid the fragments of a single secret end to end, perhaps a secret bearing the beautiful name of "happiness".
Sunday, June 28, 2009
So I just Twittered our Blog. I am feeling very PO-MO right now.
Of all the 21 folks/groups I am following on Twitter, Drawn and Quarterly is the most interesting (as well as my cousin Sam). I took Seth around a few weeks ago and it was delightful. I love showing people around Toronto (even though he had lived here for many years).
I am always highly impressed with authors (and illustrators) like him who are able to take themselves away from what is essentially a very solitary occupation, and talk very articulately about what they are doing. It really must be quite difficult. Interestingly, he told me in the comics world, cartoonists are not edited as they are in other forms of publishing. Suffice to say I was amazed. If I was a writer, I am pretty sure every word I wrote would be heavily edited. Ah, well, I suppose I will just stick to talking about books and not writing any. John Irving is safe ;)
Friday, June 26, 2009
Finger Lickin' Fifteen signed. While they waited everyone was kept entertained by a DJ spinning catchy tunes, free balloons (featuring favorite characters from the series), and was kept fortified by some absolutely incredible mini cheesecakes! For those who asked where we got them, they are made by a bakery in Bolton called Mercato Fine Foods Bakery and Deli.
Because I know that there are a lot of Janet Evanovich fans out there, I did make a point of getting an extra copy of Finger Lickin' Fifteen autographed for one lucky blog reader! If you are a librarian (Canada only) and would like the chance to win a signed book , please send me an e-mail with Finger Lickin' Fifteen in the subject line. Please make sure to include your full name and the mailing address of your library. I'll collect entries until 9:20 a.m. EST Monday July 13th. It's a strange cut off time I know, but for some reason 9:20 seems to be the earliest I can make it to the office on a Monday morning! Good Luck!
If you are a fan of the series, you might also want to check out the new animated Burg website that the publisher of the series has created. It features an interactive map where you can visit various locales from Stephanie Plum's neighborhood- her apartment, the bond office, her parent's house- and learn more about Stephanie's life and friends.
NB: This contest is now closed. Thanks to those who entered & congratulations to the winner!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Monday, June 22, 2009
We are extremely lucky here in Toronto, as Janet Evanovich herself will be in town on Wednesday June 24th. If you are in the Toronto area and would like to meet the lovely and talented author in person, she will be doing a signing at the Chapters Queensway store at 6PM (1950 The Queensway in Etobicoke). It sounds like a great time- there will be cheesecake, balloons, a DJ and more fun stuff.
Check the blog later in the week for event photos (and perhaps a giveaway or two)!
Hope to see you there!
Thursday, June 18, 2009
The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist, translated by Marlaine Delargy, is a dystopian novel, but like all great books in that genre, it succeeds brilliantly because the events that occur feel like they could happen next week. Our heroine Dorrit - not unlike myself - is a woman who early on in life was warned by her mother of the importance of being financially and intellectually independent. Career first - worry about men and babies later. Dorrit has taken this advice and become a writer, and though she's a struggling one she genuinely enjoys her life. However, society - still a free democracy - has radically changed its values. At the opening of the novel, Dorrit is preparing to go to The Unit, where all women who hit the age of 50, and men when they turn 60, have to go - but only if they don't have children.
On the surface, The Unit is a lovely place, an enclosed community where Dorrit gets her own apartment, has free access to restaurants, fitness centres, spas, museums and parks. Everyone is cheerful and she quickly makes friends with a group of other childless women. There is of course a library in The Unit, and a very up-to-date one; you can even sign out an e-reader. And the librarian works a lot of overtime because there are so many intellectuals in the Unit. "People who read books," he says, "tend to be dispensable. Extremely."
Of course there is a political reason why Dorrit and childless men and women live in The Unit (and here I'm not revealing any spoilers you can't find on the jacket of the book). During their stay, they will be used as human guinea pigs for a roster of medical experiments and gradually become organ donors for those living outside The Unit - i.e. parents. They will be asked to donate what they can, bit by bit, until the final donation of a heart or lung. They get excellent medical care, but as you can guess, the life expectancy is not long in The Unit.
In addition to a cracking, well written story, this novel would make an incredible book club pick. It contains a minefield of ethical questions to discuss, not only around issues of organ donation (who deserves a kidney more - a perfectly healthy sixty year old man who may have another thirty years to live, or a thirty year old mother of two?) but also the role and economic value society places (or not) on childless citizens (who, I must mention are, ahem, often the ones covering maternity leaves). It's also very much a look at how the relationships and friendships between women change when children come into the picture. And about how married parents judge singletons, and the childless judge mothering skills. If we're honest, we've all been guilty of one or the other. The Unit may remind you of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go and certainly if you enjoyed that novel, you will like this one too; I think it more closely continues the feminist and fertility debates that Margaret Atwood explored with The Handmaid's Tale, or even those that Aldous Huxley detailed in Brave New World. And this is definitely not just a female read - remember, childless men get sent to The Unit as well.
Shortly after finishing this unforgettable novel, I read a news report that the birth rate among Western women was declining at a rate that could have some major economic repercussions. Ninni Holmqvist is a Swedish writer, from a country famous for its progressive policies towards daycare and maternity leaves. And though my rational side tells me not to get freaked out by fiction, there's a part of me that wonders - what do the Swedes know that we don't yet? I've made a conscious decision in my life not to have kids (which I've never regretted - how do parents ever find the time to read?) though I'm happy to play a role in the lives of my friends who do. SO DON'T SEND ME TO THE UNIT!
(And of course, if you did, I couldn't offer up a few extra galleys of this amazing book, which I do now. Sorry, but this offer is only open to Canadian librarians, library staff and teacher-librarians at either public, school, or academic libraries. Just send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org with The Unit in the subject line, and include your library mailing address. I'll accept entries for a week, until noon EST on Thursday, June 25th, and do a random draw then. Winners will be notified by e-mail.)
N.B. Thanks to everyone who entered the draw. This giveaway is now closed and winners have been notified.